The recent push by a number of Arab states to normalize relations with the Assad regime is based on the false premise that the war is over and it is necessary to restore ties to lobby Damascus to change its relationship with Iran. Other regional dynamics are also a factor: The UAE, for example, sees it as a necessary balance against what it perceives as adversarial actions by Turkey with the Syrian jihadist group Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) in Idlib. Yet these rationales for rehabilitating the Assad regime are completely fallacious. The downsides and policy consequences will not only affect Arab states, but will also harm American interests, making it difficult for the U.S. to fully pivot to address the rising threat from China.
As the Assad regime’s closest allies, Russia and Iran have supported Hafez and Bashar al-Assad through various periods of isolation. In the case of Bashar, they supported his bid to remain in power in the face of mass mobilization against his rule. Bashar owes his survival to Russia, Iran, and the latter’s proxy network.